Brighton holds off Detroit Catholic Central to advance to Division 1 Final for third straight year
Plymouth – The Division 1 finalists from a season ago met on Friday in a state semifinal at USA Hockey Arena in a game that many thought is the de facto state championship.
Brighton, which defeated Detroit Catholic Central, 5-2, to win its fourth state title in 2017, entered this game as the underdog to a Shamrock squad that had not lost to a team from this state this season.
The Bulldogs led Catholic Central, 2-0, after two periods and hung on to stun the Shamrocks, 2-1, to reach the state final for a third consecutive season.
“I think we came in here with an attitude that we could do this,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “We believed in ourselves, we’ve worked hard all year and Catholic Central has too, but we came in here with the belief that it didn’t matter who we were going to play. We put a smile on our face and we took care of each other and I think we accomplished what we came here to do.”
On Saturday Brighton will play Saginaw Heritage, which defeated Traverse City West, 3-2, in overtime in the first semifinal on Friday, back at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth at 6 p.m.
In the late stages of the third period, Catholic Central finally started finding multiple scoring opportunities with less than five minutes left to play as the Shamrocks went on the power play, looking to cut the Brighton lead in half.
After Brighton goaltender Harrison Flemming made a tremendous pad save, extending his left leg back across the goal to rob Hockey Player of the Year Finalist Brendan West, the Shamrocks would finally get one past Flemming as Jared Lee scored on the same power play. The Shamrocks were playing with an extra attacker on the play, to cut the Brighton lead to 2-1 with 3:05 left to play.
Catholic Central head coach Brandon Kaleniecki said that after beating Brighton 3-0 during the regular season, he didn’t see many differences in Friday’s game aside from Brighton’s ability to capitalize on the power play.
“It was a very similar game, obviously they (Brighton) executed on the power play, I don’t think we gave them a power play in the first one,” he said. “That was probably a big difference for them because they executed on two out of three and that ended up being the difference. Five-on-five, going back to December, it was very similar, neither team really created a ton of chances throughout the course of the game
Catholic Central would have one final opportunity to tie the game as the Shamrocks went back on the power play with a minute left, but the Brighton defense was able to hold of Catholic Central to head back to the state final.
Moggach said that while he was pleased with his team’s attention to detail and ability to do the ‘little things’, he felt that the mindset and attitude of his players entering Friday’s game was the ultimate difference maker.
“As much as we did well with the little things, I thought it was our attitude,” he said. “The pressure was on them, the pressure wasn’t on us, we weren’t expected to win. So we came in as the underdog and we put the underdog mask on and wore it well, I think. We got into their heads early because we went out there with a smile on our face, a good attitude and had fun with each other.”
Brighton would strike first as the Bulldogs took advantage of the power play with less than a minute left in the first period as Adam Conquest found the back of the net to give Brighton the 1-0 advantage heading into intermission.
Conquest’s goal was the first goal Catholic Central had allowed all postseason as the Shamrocks outscored opponents 32-0 in their four playoff games entering Friday’s semifinal.
Brighton would then add to its lead in the second period with the Bulldogs back on the power play and senior Mathew Kahra sent a shot into the top of the net as the net was coming off its moorings. The goal was reviewed and would stand giving Brighton a 2-0 lead with 4:38 left in the second period.
While Brighton had to wait for the rare review to confirm the goal, Kahra admitted that he was pretty confident that his goal would stand based on what he saw from his vantage point.
“It was a bit of a scramble and it just popped out and I was able to dig it out and throw it to the net and it went in,” he said. “I think I knew the whole way that they would count it because it was going in the whole way, but of course, there’s always the chance that they call it off. But we were ready the whole time, even if they didn’t count it, just to come back and continue doing what we were doing.”